The small city of Veurne turned very quiet for a couple of hours yesterday. The annual religious procession of penitents floated through streets lined with people sitting silently on chairs or whispering to each other on cafe terraces. The only sound comes from fake Roman soldiers hitting the street with their javelin or by young girls wearing a curly wig praising the Lord.
The yearly agriculture fair is taking place again in Libramont. One of the biggest of its kind in Europe, it attracts over 200,000 visitors enjoying the food (i.e. mostly meat), the tractors and machines designed for giants and endless wheat fields, the breeders’ competitions exhibiting ‘Blanc Bleu Belge’ bulls scoring more than 1,300kg, pigs with reproductive organs worthy to be used as the object of desire for American football players (I mean the ball they badly want to carry to the other side), and reminding everyone that despite the traffic jams to get there, we all depend on nature and those who somehow master it to feed ourselves…
The e-book for the iPad ‘Royal Silence’, available at the iBooks Store at THIS LINK for the price of a magazine, was updated with the photographs of last months’ ceremony for the late King Norodom Sihanouk.
The book, with texts by Abby Seiff and Pierre Gillette, and with 229 photographs about King Norodom Sihanouk, including those from his return from exile in 1991, can now also be read on your Macintosh computer if it runs Mavericks.
Belgium celebrates its existence on July 21st. On that day in 1831, Leopold Saxe-Cobourg swore allegiance to the constitution and became the first king of Belgium, putting an end to a revolution and institutionalising a de facto independence gained from the Netherlands after rioters were joined by opera goers (shortened version of Belgian history).
And that is when the fun began…
The ‘Foire du Midi’ or ‘Zuidfoor’, an annual fair located in the center of the city of Brussels has been going on since 1885, a few days before the celebrations of the Belgian Independence Day, allowing all those who cannot afford to go on a holiday to enjoy some entertainment. Besides bigger and scarier attractions, not much has changed over the last decades. Brotherhood of the Bald Belgians, members of the ‘Orde van de Brusselse Moestasje’ (Order of the Brussels Mustache), ‘Buumdroegers’ (Tree Carriers), ‘Poeppendroegers’ (Puppet Carriers), ‘Gardevils’ (Guards), take part in a ceremony presided by the mayor of the city.
The festivities took place at the same time as a 5000-strong pro-Palestinian demonstration…
So a Chinese investors pulls out of the Boeung Kak lake development, letting the air out of a bloated balloon…
It is an old story by now, but with this split the last chapter of the Boeung Kak lake has not been written yet: 3000 families were evicted from Boeung Kak lake by a development company, a lake which collected excess of rainwaters was filled with sand, land rights activists were intimidated, beaten, imprisoned, committed suicide, pleas from desperate families were ignored, promises were broken, alliances were bought, more than hundred demonstrations were held at the Municipality, at the Asian Development Bank, at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, at the Appeals Court, at the foreign embassies…
The only positive thing which emerged from this arrogant, dirty, marshy development endeavour is the rise of a group of loud-mouthed and fearless women which relentlessly stand up for their rights, finding ways to attract the attention not only of the media when pushing their agenda, but of the general public as well. The Boeung Kak lake ladies stand as an example for many in Cambodia. They are the noisy and disturbing tip of the iceberg.
These days the iceberg is under threat of a brutal meltdown, these voices are in danger of being shut up.
Having followed their struggle since the very beginning was/is a privilege. Their story, together with many other stories on land issues since the year 2000 can be found in the app ‘Quest for Land’, with photographs by yours truly and long, in-depth reports by Robert Carmichael. The app can be purchased on iTunes at THIS LINK.
The 5 opposition CNRP lawmakers who were arrested for incitement to violence following yesterday’s outbursts of violence (see HERE) during a demonstration requesting freedom of speech are being tried at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. About 500 CNRP supporters gathered at the blockade set up by the riot police to prevent access to the court, soon joined by CNRP lawmakers.
The implacable logic of the ruling CPP on issues regarding justice which amounts to ‘What we are doing is always legal and what the opposition is doing is illegal when we decide it is’ is spread out in the open again.
For the armed forces to use lethal weapons, shoot demonstrators or even kill them, instead of applying well known crowd control techniques, for municipal guards to consistently provoke violence because of an uncontrolled behaviour does not, for the ruling party, justify any prosecution or arrest. When one protest, out of dozens of protests in the previous months, turns violent at the hand of CNRP supporters, the judicial machine quickly sets in and targets not the perpetrators, but those who supposedly incited the violence. Why can’t it target those who ordered the excessive violence used by the armed forces?
Because the prevailing logic within the ruling party is one of old-fashioned politics based on developing antagonism, of machismo muscle flexing, on supposedly clever ‘divide to reign’ strategies.
It certainly is not a logic which sets out to benefit ALL Cambodians.
Additional edit at 1:00PM: the simple notion of impartiality is totally absent within a fraction of the population. Even the Red Cross/Crescent, supposedly representing the essence of impartiality worldwide, seems to be contaminated by partisan politics in Cambodia: the municipal guards beaten up by protesters yesterday received 25$ from the Cambodian Red Cross. Has the Cambodian Red Cross ever visited those, innocent or not, shot by the military or beaten up by the same municipal guards in the previous months?
PS: I will leave for Belgium tonight and will not cover what certainly will be interesting Cambodian events in the coming month. Sorry…
The notoriously violent Municipal Security Guards for the first time took a serious beating today at a rallye called by the opposition CNRP requesting that ‘Freedom Park’, fenced off by barbed wire and a 24h presence of riot police since a violent crackdown of striking workers in the aftermath of the 2013 elections, be returned to the public as an open space where freedom of expression could again prevail.
Several Municipal Security Guards were seriously injured and brought to the hospital.
Three CNRP lawmakers were detained upon leaving the area where the demonstration took place and are held at the Phnom Penh central police station.